Driving while professional: Could truckers have helped prevent Thursday’s deadly pileup?

Texas winter snow storms create crashes and pileups throughout the Dallas, Fort Worth metroplex.FORT WORTH, TEXAS February 15, 2021—Driving in the snow and ice can be challenging, even for experienced local drivers. As the tragic 133-car and 18-wheeler pileup in Fort Worth on Thursday morning demonstrated, local motorists may have been unprepared to navigate the icy conditions.

But what about professional truck drivers, who should have known what to expect that day and should have reacted accordingly?

“Unlike other motorists, professional truck drivers are trained to manage hazardous road conditions. They also are equipped with additional resources beyond radio traffic and weather reports,” says Steven C. Laird, a Fort Worth attorney. Laird is one of only 11 Texas lawyers board certified in Truck Accident Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

“Truckers often have electronics that allow them to get detailed weather information from other truck drivers, as well as direct communications from their dispatchers about road conditions.”

“They should use their extensive training and experience in handling and making decisions about driving an 80,000-pound truck into or during such weather-related events,” Laird says.

Preparing for and knowing about dangerous driving conditions can help prevent accidents and injuries if drivers are willing to take the time to better understand what they are up against BEFORE they hit the roads. This is even more true for commercial motor carriers and professional truck drivers, who are specifically required to follow safety regulations for the industry.

Federal Trucking Safety Regulations require 18-wheeler drivers to use ‘extreme caution’ in ‘hazardous conditions,’ including reduced speeds and even parking when conditions are too dangerous to continue,” says Laird. “These safety rules are for the protection of the traveling public, including the truck drivers themselves.”

Being careful is everyone’s obligation, but professional drivers must play by a different set of safety rules. A 4,000-pound car is often no match for an 80,000 truck, especially in hazardous weather conditions, and the additional safety rules take that into account.

“All of us should use caution in icy conditions, but professional truck drivers need to step up and do the right thing. If the rules are broken, lives are often permanently affected,” says Laird.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 17 percent of all vehicle crashes happen during winter conditions. And with more inclement weather forecast for our area in the coming days, drivers should do their best to prepare for the worst.

Laird says that following some simple tips from the American Automobile Association can keep you safe:

  1. Stay home! Do you really need to be out in bad weather?
  2. Slow down! You may not have the road traction you think you do.
  3. Keep your distance! You might need extra time to stop suddenly
  4. Check your brakes! Apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal
  5. Don’t stop on a hill! Inertia works both ways – forward and backward – especially on ice